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Decide priorities before making decisions

City councilors represent you every time they spend your money. As a candidate for city council, I want to bring improved decision making in order to better represent Lake Oswego citizens’ spending priorities.

Make decisions that align strategically with citizen goals: I recently co-authored a textbook on leadership, and wrote that clear decision making brings strategic accomplishments, based on clear priorities. However, in Lake Oswego, a dozen major proposed projects float with prioritization not determined. Decide priorities. Decisions improve and funds are used more efficiently when priorities are in place, including core city services.

Replace indecision with innovative alternatives that are well researched: Using the West End Building (WEB) purchase made several years ago as an example, its use was ill defined then and now. Purchased high for $20 million, we still owe $19 million on real estate now worth $9 to $10 million. Interest payments continue while the city flounders in indecision. Let’s research alternatives well and decide.

Utilize the building now? How about a community education and arts center? I mentor businesses with a large team of retired executives; a satellite center offering these free services could be explored. Higher education may be interested in offering advanced degrees. Beavers could create programs not unlike West Linn’s $1.2 million gift for OSU Master Gardeners, or UO Ducks could create programs not unlike their Portland advanced degrees. Accompanying meeting and program space in an education center is a fit, so if the library bond does not pass, what is envisioned there could be offered in the WEB.

Sell now? Only if we decide to take an enormous loss in the general fund. Sell later, and use the structure short-term as a home for our 9-1-1 center or city hall while they are rebuilt? Or raze the building and use the valuable land for central city services?

Make the tough decisions: Sometimes city council’s aversion to tough decisions is as important as decisions it makes. For example, the council has not re-evaluated the LO-Tigard Water Partnership’s capacity and scope despite rising costs (to $253 million) and skyrocketing water bills. Decide to re-evaluate project scope. (See my Sept. 27 citizen’s view in the Review on “Skyrocketing water bills.”)

Communicate openly before decisions are made: In open “Conversations with Karen,” citizens voice low satisfaction with communication from city council about taxes, fees and city purchases that are made by a vote of only four people in the entire city — four of our seven city councilors that constitute a majority. Implement simple and direct methods: elected officials’ office hours, a two-way communication blog, meaningful councilor attendance at neighborhood associations, town halls and more.

Let decisions not be tainted by campaign contributions: Trace contributions (e.g., from streetcar contractors to a councilor candidate as shown on ORESTAR), keeping favoritism or crony capitalism out of council decisions.

Council should know when to take bigger decisions to the people: Debt and property tax are paid by you. Fees (on water/utility bills) are paid by you. You had no vote on the WEB, on water fees or on Foothills before millions of your tax dollars were spent. Councilors, appreciating citizens without insider information, know when it is right to communicate and have voters weigh in.

Bring change to recent patterns of city spending by electing councilors who are available to listen and who bring sound decision-making skills.

Karen Bowerman is a candidate for Lake Oswego City Council.